It is very important to me to be writing this particular post on the first day of summer.
Every child has that story they read in middle school that shapes them and haunts them well into adulthood. That story for me was “All Summer in a Day” by Ray Bradbury.
If you remember, the story is about a girl locked in a closet on a very special day. It has everything to do with group mentality, envy and being an outlier.
I write about the future to prevent the future.
I intend to carry Bradbury’s torch. As strategic advisor to Center for Policy and Emerging Technology, I was lucky enough to be hostess to a powerful discussion about The Internet of Things. Nigel Cameron has the most vast and intellectual community of leaders in his arsenal and he was able to convene Federal Trade Commissioner Julie Brill and other important #IoT voices including Nuala O’Connor, Carolyn Nguyen, and Daniel Caprio. It was a dialogue more than a debate as Cameron has coined the phrase “asking tomorrow’s questions.”
The types of questions being raised included:
- How is the government keeping pace with change?
- How do citizens protect themselves to know what are legitimate resources vs. scams?
- What is the point of HIPPA if algorithms can disclose very private medical information?
- How can business innovate to keep up with globalization and protect intellectual property?
- How are we teaching our children critical thinking skills to build discernment?
It has taken me weeks and now months to digest the conversation and even begin to write about the experience. Now, I am finally to articulate themes catalyzed by the discussion:
Every object is a Trojan horse and every person is a sensor.
I need you to be clear that simple assumed harmless “yes” and “like” in digital space give marketers information about you. Much of this data creates targeted content marketing campaigns. Some of these campaigns may accidentally cause you to buy products that will reduce your self esteem and impact your economic vitality. Today you are a walking mall and all these free app developers are studying you as the sensors in your phone track every choice you make. You should know this to be more informed. Please pause before using that kiosk that is going to be offering you coupons on your favorite food “helping you with diabetes menu suggestions.” Not all of this big data is malicious; I just don’t think we are talking enough about scenarios that are frightening.
You will need mental strategies to avoid macro-seduction.
Our need to belong is much more primal than our need for personal excellence and we are swayed by our peer groups more than we care to admit. I admire the work of Elizabeth Doty and Sam Sommers who work very hard to help us understand that context impacts how we choose and how we make decisions. You need to un-plug, write in a journal, go for a walk in nature, and explore personal identity so you know more about yourself. I don’t want you to learn who you are from a spreadsheet being read in a foreign country by someone who cares more about your mind than your money. Preserve and protect your mindshare.
Here are ways I protect myself and those I advise:
Like ice melting and the sun rising, little shift in technology can negatively impact our humanity.
One day at the library I checked out the movie Never Let Me Go, simply because I enjoy actors Keira Knightley and Andrew Garfield. I didn’t even read the back cover, knowing it would be a good movie. Both good and tragic, this movie about cloning and ethics was one I couldn’t shake. It caused me to think about how slowly ice melts and the fact that you don’t see the molecules change until . . . until the trajectory is fast in momentum. I feel this way about how people are unaware of how auto-biographical their choices are and how transparent our unconscious is being broadcast – even sometimes without our own knowing.
The questions that were asked at the Internet of Things roundtable are bigger than individual choices. They are today’s questions and tomorrow’s questions. They are, however, answered click by click.
Let’s not disappoint Margot a second time . . .